Face shapes and other red herrings

By Vera Resnick

I have a friend who accuses me of being drawn by anything new, bright and shiny – by anything interesting, not to put too fine a point on it. And I have to admit, he is right.

So much in life is boring, especially for a homoeopath. We plod through tales of stools, stomach pains and ‘that niggling feeling I get in my head when I go to the bathroom’. We discuss sputum, coryza, leucorrhea, diarrhea and constipation ad infinitum. The floaters in the eyes ‘only when I look up’, the sinus pain ‘only when I look down’, the belching after eating and the incontinence after a pint…

And we have to wade through that morass (sorry about the image but there it is) looking for how the condition is individualized in the patient. What makes it better. What makes it worse. And how to handle the patient who can only produce one answer – ‘I don’t know’. We ask ‘how has your mood changed?’ We ask if the child is clingy now he has yellow-green discharge which we examine in great detail.

How can this not be boring? How much more interesting is it to say ‘who needs all this, just look at their face shape?’ Or ‘you have to discover the patient’s core delusion’! Or ‘what is their innermost sensation’? Or ‘what colours do they like’? And then the expression which justifies all. ‘Do this, and you’ll see it’s the key to homoeopathy / the key to solving the case / the key to the world, the universe and everything…’. It’s that sense of a locked door creaking open, a locked trunk delivering up its secrets if we only had the key…

Finally things are getting interesting.

Only problem is – those of us who are honest with ourselves, who are capable of seeing the Emperor’s new clothes for what they are, will find that in place of a shiny brass key we are holding a fat red herring in our hot little hands…

As Sherlock Holmes (required reading for all homoeopaths) probably said at some stage, the only key to a crime are the clues showing that a crime has been committed. The patient is basically an ongoing crime scene (yes, strange image but bear with me, m’lud…). The clues begin with what the patient sees, hears, smells, touches and tastes, what we see, hear, smell, touch (usually not taste but more dedicated physicians in olden times were not averse to tasting a steaming beaker of yellowish liquid for diagnostic purposes…). . And ditto for the patient’s friends and relatives. The clues begin with what changed, leading to this crime. The detective frequently asks “Did he usually eat…drink…travel in this direction…ride a penny farthing bicycle…” because changes, in any good crime fiction, are the key to solving the puzzle.

The clues do not begin with whether the person on whom the crime is being perpetrated has a pointy chin and eyes spaced wide apart. The clues do not begin with whether his parents loved him, hated him, or dressed him up in women’s clothing. The clues do not even begin with his deep and enduring love for chicken…The clues begin with the victim of the crime (a.k.a. the patient) there in front of you, and with the information that has relevance to the crime. Or to switch back to homoeopathy – the information that is pathological.

Can you imagine the scene in a courtroom before a judge if the following happened?
“M’lud, I put it to you that my client was the victim of attempted murder”
“And how would you support your claim?”
“It’s clear, M’lud, he was wearing a brown jacket at the time, and has sunken cheeks.”
“Does he usually wear brown jackets?”
“No, M’lud, he has been known to wear green, or even yellow ones, but brown is his favourite.”
“And the sunken cheeks?”
“Oh, M’lud, it is known that people with sunken cheeks are usually victims of attempted murder…”
Thud of gavel.
“CASE DISMISSED!”

Is anyone reading this waking up to what is happening in homoeopathy? Please don’t tell me that it’s only thee and me…and lately I’m not too sure about thee…

The presenting symptoms which have changed are the only starting point that has any validity in homoeopathy. It is the only place where we can seek certainty. Of course there is more, every homoeopath has been deluged with information from patients at one point or another, all of it apparently relevant. But every homoeopath should be extremely wary of those bright shiny non-symptoms, which lead to even brighter, shinier and above all, interesting (and also harmful) speculations.

The place where homoeopathy becomes interesting, to me, is when a constellation of really useful, 100% certain symptoms come together to closely mirror the proving of one remedy only. And the place where homoeopathy becomes fascinating and rewarding is when after prescribing, the patient calls to say a problem she has experienced for years is shifting and easing. And that, my friends, is the true bright shiny thing that is homoeopathy.

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